Bama Yao Autonomous Country is located in Hechi Prefecture, or West Central Guangxi Province, South China. Bama County Town is about 250 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Nanning and about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Hechi City. Bama covers 1,971 square kilometers (761 square miles). It is a multi-ethnic region with 12 ethnic groups inhabiting the area, including the Zhuang people, Yao people and Han people.
Bama is a hinterland famous for its longevity phenomenon. According to experts, Bama is among the best areas for human living and eco-tourism. The International Alternative Medicine Association declared that Bama was the town ranked fifth for longevity in the world at its 13th annual conference. Compared with the four higher ranked longevity towns, the percentage of longevous people in the population of Bama is the highest. The chairman of the association had conducted many expeditions and years of study into the longevity phenomenon. He claimed that Bama was an eternal pure land, which was left behind by the mortal world. The longevity culture, food culture, ethnic culture and folk custom culture of Bama are distinct and attractive.
Exploring the Bama Mystery: the Longevity Phenomenon
Over the years, the longevity phenomenon of Bama has been of interest to people all over the world. According to the national population census in 1964, there were 28 longevous men over age 100, this number climbed to 50 in 1982, and 69 in 1990. In 1994 the ratio of longevous people in the population was 3.54/10000. According to the 5th national population census in 2000, the number of longevous men over age 90 had reached 530. The year-to-year increase of the “hundred-year-old phenomenon” became a subject of scientific research.
The longevity phenomenon in Bama has had a long history. In the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Emperor Jiaqing (1760–1820) heard that there was an old man in Bama called “Lan Xiang” who was 142 years old at that time. The emperor wrote a poem especially for him. Several years later, another emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Guangxu (1871–1908) let the general governor of Guangdong Province inscribe a tablet for Deng Chengcai, a villager of Bama, which reads “only men of virtue can be longevous”. The tablet is now preserved by the great great grandson of Deng.
According to experts of International Alternative Medicine Association, the main explanations of longevity in Bama are the good natural ecology, the high-quality air, the pollution-free underground water source of the karst landscape and the pollution-free environment. Bama has a gentle subtropical climate, with 20.4ºC (69ºF) the annual mean temperature. Panyang River is the mother river of Bama, running through Bama from west to east. There are plentiful negative oxide ions in the fresh air of famous Bapandun Village. There are 45,000 ions per cubic meter, which is ten times, or even dozens of times, that of industrial cities and low-lying areas. The potable water they have is pumped from 3000 meters (9843 feet) underground, so plentiful special complex ion groups are in the water. These elements have a strong ability of catalyzing and intensifying the life of cells, and are hailed “the dynamic elements for life”. Besides, Bama has a strong natural magnetic field. The water is influenced by the magnetic force lines and changed into basic ionized water, which is very good for human bodies.
Besides living in a pollution-free environment, most of the macrobians eat natural and organic food without any hormones. More vegetables and less meat are in their diet. There is a common feature of the macrobians — no food pickiness. Their favorite foods are the local edible wild herbs and cornmeal porridge. They get married and pregnant late, and they have regular lives, cheerful personalities, appreciating hospitality, solidarity and friendship. They like laboring so much that they feel uncomfortable without it. A 104-year-old man called Tan Shisong, insists on gathering potherbs for pigs, cutting clover for horses and gathering firewood in the mountains. In a word, he insists on doing anything he can for his family, although his sons and grandsons have all grown up and he never needs to be concerned about food and clothing.
There are plentiful and distinct tourism attractions in Bama, among which Panyang River and Devils’ Cave are the most famous ones. Besides the natural attractions, there are also lots of humanistic interests in Bama, such as exploring longevity, experiencing ethnic customs and visiting the Revolutionary History Education Base.
Panyang River is Bama’s mother river and “Longevity River”, which leisurely divides Bama into to two parts. Four sections of the 82-kilometer (52-mile) river are underground (there are eight sections in total). In other words, the water enters and exits the limestone caves four times, which makes the water so limpid that you can see the bottom. The water’s color is as green as jade. In the seasons of spring, summer and autumn, the graceful bearing of the fern leaf hedges and bamboo along both of the river banks bring a pleasant green touch to the river basin. The mountains look like the umber-black dye used for painting eyebrows; the green bamboo reflects on the water’s surface. All of these strengthen the dreamlike beauty of the scenery.
The water of Panyang River is mineralized four times by entering and exiting underground limestone caves. The water has plentiful minerals and a steady temperature of 17–18ºC (63–64ºF), which is very pleasant, neither too hot nor too cold. Long-term bathing in this water is said to improve people’s skin and expel diseases. So people have claimed that traditional natural bathing is also one of the secrets of longevity in Bama.
Devils’ Cave is located in Poyue Village, 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of Bama. It is one of the most majestic and spectacular limestone caves. In 1987, an expedition made up of limestone experts from China and Boznia and Herzegovina went there for a 9-day study of the cave. The consensus was that the beauties of grottos all over the world are concentrated in this cave. It is praised as “the best limestone cave in the world”. The cave’s average height is 70 meters (230 feet) and the average width is 50 meters (164 feet). The main tourist route is about 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) long. If the interconnecting caves and the branch tunnels are counted, the length of the whole tourist route could be ten thousand meters (6 miles). Devils’ Cave, together with its contiguous neighbor, Gansui Cave, the adjacent Liuyang Cave and Wuren Cave make up an enormous cave group.
The cave is divided into four huge caverns, which are all worthy of a visit. The rock water permeates down, dripping rhythmically. The deep and shallow pools are filled with the clear spring water. The shallow water is suitable for water games. The deep part is suitable for boating, swimming or diving. The spring water in the limestone caves merges with Panyang River underground downstream from Paoli Town. The waters are in sharp contrast — limpidity contrasting with comparative muddiness downstream of Poyue Village.
In spring, there are blooming flowers, the twitter of birds and singing springs near openings that let in the light, both inside and outside the cave. The most splendid attractions are the stalactite pillars, which are 70–80 meters (230–260 feet) high and 3–5 meters (10–16 feet) in diameter, standing in a cavern 100 meters (330 feet) high by 1000 meters (3300 feet) long. The stalactite pillars make up a stone tower group. It looks so magnificent and amazes all of the visitors there. In addition, mist in the cave makes the scenery mysterious and ever-changing. These giant stalactite pillars are the product of millions of years.
More about Bama
Bama is a sacred land of revolution. In the 1920s and the early 1930s, Deng Xiaoping, Zhang Yunyi, Wei Baqun and many other older-generation proletarian revolutionists, organized and commanded the armed struggles here. From the Agrarian Revolution and the Anti-Japanese War, to the Liberation War, Bama was one of the important revolutionary base areas.
Xiangzhu (‘flavorsome pigs’, also called “mini pigs”) are a specialty of Bama, which are famous for their delicious meat. They are high in microelements and raised in a pollution-free environment. Bama is considered to be “the County of Xiangzhu”. Another precious commodity of Bama is its camellia oil. Bama is one of the main producers of the oil and maintains over 1,000 square kilometers (400 square miles) of camellia fields. Bama was selected as the Top Undiscovered China Attractions